Police Story 2013 (2013)
After properly consuming Jackie Chan’s remarkably goofy and extremely lackluster cinematic endeavor “Chinese Zodiac,” I was definitely ready for something a bit more grounded and dramatic. Enter director Sheng Ding’s “Police Story 2013,” a flick that finds Chan trading over-the-top comedy with a surprisingly amount of emotion. Although the story itself is a little wimpy — a police officer, his daughter, and a few other characters are taken hostage by an angry club owner — Chan and company do a commendable job keeping things tense and engaging. And while the film doesn’t have too many action set pieces to speak of, the fight between Chan and a nasty thug inside a cage is remarkably enjoyable and surprisingly brutal. If you can look past Ding’s uninspired script and a somewhat misleading opening, “Police Story 2013” should reaffirm your faith in Chan’s work. Although it’s the weakest entry in the franchise, it’s still one of the stronger action flicks the guy has produced in several years. Here’s hoping Chan continues heading in this direction. I’m definitely digging his more nuanced and down-to-earth performances. In short: Recommended.
Rigor Mortis (2013)
I’ve always had an affinity for Chinese vampire movies, though I never found any of them particularly scary. First time director Juno Mak’s 2013 action-horror hybrid “Rigor Mortis” takes the hopping bloodsucker and tosses it into an apartment complex overflowing with supernatural activity. What’s more, he makes the creature terrifying. Although the vampire doesn’t officially show up until the third act, there’s still enough horror-related shenanigans to keep genre aficionados satisfied until our heroes finally have to contend with this undead menace. Siu-hou Chin — who also appeared in the 1985 classic “Mr. Vampire” — leads the charge as the film’s troubled hero, though everyone involved is simply fantastic in the flick. However, Mak’s direction and cinematographer’s Ng Kai-Ming stylish approach to the action is really the star of “Rigor Mortis.” The pair are smart in their presentation of the horror; although you don’t see one character’s demise on-screen, the reaction of someone standing outside the carnage tells you everything you need to know. Were I to list my favorite movies of 2013, Juno Mak’s “Rigor Mortis” would reside toward the top.
Tom Yum Goong 2 (aka The Protector 2, 2013)
Let’s get one thing out of the way right now: Director Prachya Pinkaew’s “Tom Yum Goong 2” (aka “The Protector 2”) is a badass martial arts flick. I mean seriously badass. There are tons of break-neck action, some very impressive stunts, and a plethora of quality fights. However, those looking for the same thrills found in the original flick might feel a little underwhelmed by the sequel. The story is essentially the same — Kham must save his beloved elephant from a batch of evil dudes — so don’t go in looking for any depth or characterization. For some odd reason, Pinkaew doesn’t give co-star JeeJa Yanin a chance to shine. In addition to holding back on her ass-kickery, Yanin’s character is paper thin and entirely forgettable. When she pops up on-screen, you suddenly remember that she’s actually in the movie. RZA does an admirable job playing the villain, though he won’t win any awards for his on-screen skills. That said, “Tom Yum Goong 2” is a return to form for Tony Jaa. It’s a blast from start to finish, though it doesn’t hold a candle to the original. Then again, what could?